What is certificate management?

Key Manager Plus What is certificate management

Last updated on: Sep 25, 2021

Digitization, promoted by the bring your own device and Internet of Things cultures, has generated an unprecedented acceleration in the number of devices connected to the internet. In a corporate network environment, every device that operates online needs a digital certificate to prove its legitimacy and function securely. These digital certificates—commonly known as X.509 certificates—are either sourced from trusted third-parties called certificate authorities (CAs) or generated internally. Organizations generally deploy SSL/TLS certificates sourced from trusted third-party CAs to devices and applications delivering public-facing services such as web servers, and use locally generated self-signed certificates for internal usage.

Regardless of their purpose, all X.509 certificates come with a set expiation date. Failing to renew them on time results in unanticipated service outages that often generate pesky browser warnings, and can lead to distrust of your brand among customers. Also, other variables to monitor throughout an X.509 certificate life cycle include request and provisioning, deployment, usage statistics, expiry, and renewals. Enterprise IT teams need a holistic visibility over their digital certificate landscape in order to streamline their life cycle management and take prompt action for any certificate related incidents.

Certificate life cycle management is the process of monitoring and managing the life cycles—from provisioning and deployment to tracking renewal, use, and expiration—of all X.509 certificates deployed within a corporate network environment. An ideal certificate management solution monitors the entire certificate infrastructure regardless of the issuing authority in real-time, automates certificate management operations, and provides IT administrators with total visibility and control over their digital certificate ecosystem.

Why do enterprises need a certificate management strategy?

While organizations acknowledge the growing problem of digital certificate management, most still don't have their own enterprise-wide certificate management strategy in place. Dealing with certificate incidents in an ad hoc manner, or relying on homegrown tools like spreadsheets, to manage certificates is futile for overcoming life cycle management challenges. Here are a few reasons why organizations should invest in a dedicated certificate life cycle management solution:

The proliferation of certificates leads to poor visibility.

An explosion of devices across the corporate network has accelerated the number of certificates issued. IT administrators often struggle with tracking certificate issuance and use, and this eventually results in a mass of orphaned certificates, putting the organization at the risk of unanticipated service downtimes and security breaches.

Lack of a dedicated department for certificate management often leads to accountability issues.

While public key infrastructure (PKI) administrators are responsible for managing certificate life cycles, most organizations do not have a dedicated, in-house PKI team. As a result, certificate management is usually tasked to the IT security team, adding to the existing strain on IT security administrators, and often resulting in a disorganized process. Automating certificate management via a centralized tool relieves some pressure from the IT security teams, and establishes clear visibility and centralized control over certificate-related operations.

Vendor-neutral certificate management is more efficient.

Organizations deploy certificates purchased from trusted third-party entities called certificate authorities (CAs) to public-facing systems and applications. Most of these CAs provide a tool for certificate management, but the downside is that its management capabilities are limited to the certificates issued by the specific vendor. If your organization sources certificates from multiple vendors or uses self-signed certificates, using an individual vendor's tools can leave a huge gap in your overall certificate management strategy.

A single expired certificate can result in costly outages.

Automating the life cycle management of certificates, especially those that are deployed to public-facing services and applications is crucial. Time and again, we've seen examples of corporate tech giants succumbing to massive outages due to expired certificates. Organizations can't afford to let even a single certificate expire as the magnitude of the impact can be huge—including customer attrition, loss of brand credibility, and sometimes security breaches. This reaffirms the need for an enterprise-wide, unified certificate management solution that streamlines and automates the life cycle management of all kinds of X.509 certificates across the network, regardless of the issuing authority.

Current state of certificate management in enterprise IT

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of enterprises are deploying more keys and certificates because of a shorter certificate lifespan.

certificate management process


of enterprises don't have an enterprise-wide cryptographic strategy for deploying keys and certificates.

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of enterprises mark crypto-agility as a top strategic priority for IT security.

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of organizations feels SSL/TLS certificates are the most crucial machine identity.

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of companies experienced four or more service outages due to expired certificates in the last 24 months.

(Source: Ponemon Institute, 2021)

The ownership dilemma.

Despite having sufficient awareness on the significance of certificate management, organizations often struggle to devise and enforce a sustainable certificate management program. A big obstacle is the ownership dilemma. Which department is responsible for dealing with certificate-related incidents or service outages resulting from expired certificates? Certificate-related operations are ideally taken care by the PKI team, a subset under the IT security department. However, in practice, every organization can't afford a dedicated PKI team, so the liability is transferred to the DevOps, that applications, or the network teams adding more to their strained workload. For certificate management, the absence of a dedicated team having expertise in both technical and policy aspects of PKI makes it difficult to avoid certificate-related incidents, like service downtimes, ultimately resulting in a poor customer experience and loss of brand credibility.

Outsourcing certificate management is a workaround for the ownership dilemma, but it comes with its caveats. Managed services are expensive and many organizations prefer to contain PKI functions within their premises. In today's highly connected IT ecosystem, there's an increasing need for the certificate management solution to integrate with various other departments, like ITSM, MDM, and DevOps, and conventional, home-grown tools like spreadsheets often don't provide this functionality.

The real solution to the problem of certificate management is a unified platform that provides complete visibility and control over the organization's SSL/TLS ecosystem. This allows IT administrators to streamline and automate the entire certificate life cycle management process from provisioning and deployment to tracking renewal, usage, and expiration of all X.509 certificates deployed across the network environment.

certificate lifecycle management

Stages involved in certificate management


DiscoverDiscover all SSL/TLS certificates deployed across your network.


ConsolidateConsolidate the discovered certificates in a secure, centralized repository.


CentralizeInhibit certificate proliferation by centralizing their creation and deployment.


AutomateStreamline and automate the complete life cycle management of public certificates—from CSR generation to provisioning, deployment, and renewal.


ScanScan and remediate SSL configuration vulnerabilities regularly after certificates have been deployed.


MonitorSet up the right type of alerting mechanism to pave the way for proactive certificate renewals well ahead of expiration.

Eliminate certificate fatigue and centralize life cycle management with Key Manager Plus.

Key Manager Plus, ManageEngine's web-based key and certificate management solution, provides IT administrators with the much-needed visibility and control over the SSL/TLS ecosystem. It centralizes, automates, and orchestrates certificate life cycle management operations from a single, easy-to-use interface, and helps IT teams pre-empt impersonation attacks, compliance issues, and site outages due to unexpected certificate expirations. Here's a quick look at Key Manager Plus' capabilities.

certificate lifecycle management with key manager plus

Discover SSL and TLS certificates across heterogeneous environments and endpoints.

Key Manager Plus' built-in SSL and TLS discovery tool helps IT administrators perform network-based discoveries on all kinds of X.509 certificates deployed within the organization. This includes self-signed certificates, Active Directory user certificates, mail server certificates, certificates deployed to load balancers, certificates hosted in Amazon Web Services, and so on.

Certificate discovery can also be carried out in bulk either on demand or automatically at periodic intervals through the creation of scheduled tasks. New certificates can be configured to be automatically added in Key Manager Plus' certificate repository as and when they are generated. This provides IT administrators with complete visibility over their SSL and TLS environments, enabling them to quickly identify and remediate rogue and invalid certificates within the network.

certificate discovery key manager plus

Centralize certificate deployment to target systems and applications.

It's quite common for enterprises to source certificates from multiple CAs for their systems and applications. This results in administrators juggling between two or more vendor portals for management without much visibility.

Key Manager Plus' certificate inventory houses certificates of all kinds, regardless of the issuing CA, facilitating a central certificate deployment workflow that doesn't require navigating between multiple interfaces. IT administrators can also generate and deploy self-signed certificates from Key Manager Plus for internal purposes, eliminating any unnecessary dependencies on intermediary teams.

Stay on top of certificate renewals through timely expiration alerts.

SSL and TLS certificates deployed to systems and applications come with set expiration dates, which means they have to be renewed from time to time. Unforeseen certificate expirations result in service downtimes, which can affect productivity, hurt brand credibility, and even act as the launch point for security breaches in extreme cases.

Monitoring the expiration of all the certificates within the organization is an enormous undertaking. Key Manager Plus helps by tracking certificate expirations via automated alerting through emails, SNMP traps, and syslog messages. IT administrators can initiate renewals, deploy new certificates, and track their usage—all from a single, unified interface.

Leverage out-of-the-box integrations with third-party CAs to track certificate life cycles from a single interface.

Certificates issued by third-party CAs have a set validity period beyond which they are not trusted by browsers. Enterprise IT teams lack holistic visibility over certificate usage and validity periods, especially when multiple CAs are involved in certificate provisioning. On top of this, the management portals offered by certificate vendors facilitate life cycle automation only for native certificates and do not extend support for other brands.

Key Manager Plus' certificate management module provides vendor-neutral certificate life cycle management—a combination of tightly integrated workflows that allows IT admins to source, consolidate, deploy, renew, and track the life cycles of certificates issued by a wide range of third-party CAs. The complete list of CAs integrated out-of-the-box with Key Manager Plus can be found here.

certificate management with CA's key manager plus

Exclusively manage certificates from the Microsoft Certificate Store and certificates issued by the Microsoft Certificate Authority.

To facilitate secure communication within internal applications and servers, enterprise IT teams generally set up in-house CAs, such as Microsoft Certificate Authority, and deploy the locally generated certificates to various nodal points within the network. Again, these certificates need to be constantly monitored and managed to avoid connection interruptions.

Managing internal CA certificates manually can be a challenge for IT admins, especially when performed on a large scale. Key Manager Plus provides dedicated workflows that help enterprise IT teams manage, automate, and orchestrate the management of certificates in the Microsoft Certificate Store and certificates issued by the Microsoft Certificate Authority without manual intervention.

Gain deeper insights via tamper-proof audit trails and comprehensive reports.

Key Manager Plus provides a sound auditing mechanism with operation-wise trails captured and categorized around the use of SSH keys and SSL/TLS certificates. Furthermore, organizations can capitalize on the best-in-class session recording mechanism that video records the operations performed by users during privileged sessions launched from Key Manager Plus. The solution also provides intuitive reports on all key and certificate management activities within the enterprise, enabling administrators to make more informed business decisions.

certificate management reports key manager plus

SSL/TLS certificate management with Key Manager Plus


What customers say

Rajesh Singh
Senior project manager, Zensar Technologies

"The customer’s IT infrastructure posed a lot more challenges, but after the deployment of Key Manager Plus, the external security audit processes were successfully completed. Our customer is quite impressed with Key Manager Plus’ features and functionalities. We highly recommend Key Manager Plus."

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